Month: May 2014

Home Buying (and Other Big Purchases) as an Emotional Purchase

A few months before we bought our current home, my wife and I toured literally dozens of different houses, trying to find one that was right for us. We had come up with a budget for our purchase and knew what our firm spending cap was. On one bright spring day, my wife and I …

Trimming the Average Budget: Healthcare

Healthcare – $2,853/year This is one of those “averages” that somewhat hides the real truth of the situation. For some, there is almost no expense at all when it comes to health care. They’re covered fully by a strong health insurance policy and rarely (if ever) have doctor visits. For others – those with poor …

Categories: Getting Started

Reader Mailbag #97

Each Monday, The Simple Dollar opens up the reader mailbags and answers ten to twenty simple questions offered up by the readers on personal finance topics and many other things. Got a question? Ask it in the comments. You might also enjoy the archive of earlier reader mailbags. What is an appropriate level and kind …

Categories: Books and Reading

Review: The Elements of Investing

Every other Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal finance book. The Elements of Investing by Burton G. Malkiel and Charles D. Ellis is a nice small volume, reminiscent in size and length to one of the Little Book investment volumes. I chose to pick this up because I highly respect Malkiel’s books A Random …

Trimming the Average Budget: Other Transportation Expenses

Transportation – other expenses and transportation – $3,130/year This unlclearly-defined category includes vehicle finance charges, maintenance and repairs, vehicle insurance, public transportation, vehicle rental, licenses, and so on. In other words, besides buying a car and putting fuel in it, every automobile expense goes into this category. With such a varied caetgory that speaks to …

Categories: Automobile

The Simple Dollar Time Machine: January 9, 2010

Many newer readers of The Simple Dollar haven’t been exposed to the hundreds of great articles in the archives of the site, so this is a weekly series that highlights the five best posts from one year ago this week, two years ago this week, and three years ago this week. I call it … …

Categories: Books and Reading

Trimming the Average Budget: Buying a Car

Transportation – vehicle purchases – $3,244/year The average American family spends almost $300 per month simply on car payments. What’s stunning is that this is the average, since $300 per month would be roughly the payments on a brand new car without a down payment. This is a number that can easily be cut with …

Trimming the Average Budget: Food at Home

Food – food at home – $3,465/year Another $300 a month component of the average family budget comes from merely eating at home. This does not include food eaten outside the home, nor does it include household cleaning supplies, toiletries, and other items that typically are bunched together in a family’s budget (since they’re often …

Why It’s Worth Your Time to Meet Your Financial Advisors

A few weeks ago, my wife and I planned a meeting with a financial advisor that was the representative for her 403(b) plan. Due to some rule changes, she was no longer eligible to receive an employer match with this plan, but she had been happy with their offerings and performance, so we had made …

Categories: Getting Started

Trimming the Average Budget: Home Energy Costs

Housing – utilities, fuels, public services – $3,477/year The average American family spends almost $3,500 a year just keeping the energy going in their home. Between heating, cooling, and running the multitude of electronic devices in our homes, we’re paying an average of $300 a month to the energy companies. Fortunately, there are tons of …

Silas Marner and You

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a Simple Dollar reader named Kip, who brought up the classic novel Silas Marner by George Eliot (if you’d like to read it, here’s the entire text, or if you’d just like a summary, here are the Sparknotes). I was so inspired by the conversation that I dug my …

Trimming the Average Budget: Pensions and Social Security

Pensions, Social Security – $5,027/year For the most part, there’s not much the average American can do to alter the amount of money they pay for Social Security and for pensions. For most of us, this is merely a paycheck deduction, something we never see in our take-home pay. Yet there are several things we …

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Conventions Edition

Quite a few readers expressed interest in having meetups of some sort at any conventions or conferences I attend this year – if not at the conference itself, in the town where the conference is held. So here’s an update. It’s looking like I won’t be attending SXSW this year (but I’m hoping for next …

Categories: Books and Reading

Trimming the Average Budget: Housing and Shelter

Housing – shelter – $10,023/year Keeping a roof over your head is the single biggest part of the budget of the average American, consuming over $10,000 per family per year – more than 20% of their take-home pay. Yet, quite often, shelter isn’t seen as a target for trimming spending. Many families simply view rent …

Categories: Getting Started

Personal Finance 101: Getting Started with Banking

Banking Basics: Savings, Online, and Otherwise We all did it at the beginning of our financial lives. We grew up. We moved out. We opened accounts at a bank on our own, quite often a different bank than the one used by our parents. And we had to figure it out. How should we pick …

How the Average American Family Spends Their Income – And How to Trim It

I’ve often wondered how the typical household budget is spent. Several times in 2009, I came across this thoroughly interesting infographic, originally from VisualEconomics.com: The link now goes to an updated video of how the average American spends their paycheck. The picture depicts how the average American family spends their income based on Department of …

Reader Mailbag #96

Each Monday, The Simple Dollar opens up the reader mailbags and answers ten to twenty simple questions offered up by the readers on personal finance topics and many other things. Got a question? Ask it in the comments. You might also enjoy the archive of earlier reader mailbags. I recently found out that I am …

Categories: Books and Reading

Review: The Happiness Project

Every other Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a non-personal finance book of interest to Simple Dollar readers. One of the biggest underlying themes of The Simple Dollar is that personal finance is merely a tool to improve the quality of your life. Of course, it’s an unwieldy and dangerous tool, one that, if used without …

Is Preschool Worth It?

Marjorie writes in with a very interesting question: I’m a single mom with a four year old daughter. Each weekday, I take my daughter to stay with one of my aunts so that I can work to earn a living and keep food on the table. After Christmas, my mom sat down with my aunt …

Categories: Family